Four Italian men between the ages of 40 and 70 perished while producing wine from their family vineyard over the weekend, according to Italy’s fire brigade.
The men—Santino and Massimo Carnevale, aged 70 and 45, and brothers Giacomo and Valerio Scofano, aged 70 and 50— were all related and taking part in an annual winemaking tradition near the city of Paola in the southern region of Calabria. One of the victims, Valerio Scofano, was not supposed to be in the shed, having been condemned to house arrest in his home several miles away for stalking a former lover.
They were found on the floor of a small shed where they were fermenting grapes without proper ventilation. The local prosecutor, Pierpaolo Bruni, said that an inquiry into the deaths would be opened, but that the room was “not sufficiently ventilated” for the high level of carbon dioxide the fermentation process produces.
Roberto Perrotta, the mayor of Paola, said the tragedy caused “pain to the whole community,” according to local media.
When first responders arrived, family members who were already at the scene briefly broke out in a scuffle with local journalists who had followed the emergency vehicles, possibly to protect the identity of the house arrest victim who should not have been there.
Police hypothesize that one of the older men first went into the shed to stir the vat of fermenting grapes as they prepared to transfer the liquid to vats when he was overcome by fumes. The second older gentleman then likely went in to rescue him but was also overcome. The two younger men and a woman though to be a daughter-in-law of one of the men also followed. The woman passed out near the entrance and was resuscitated and is recovering in a local hospital.
Authorities do not suspect foul play.